Family and Frontier in Colonial Brazil: Santana de Parnaiba, 1580-1822

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9780520075740: Family and Frontier in Colonial Brazil: Santana de Parnaiba, 1580-1822
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Colonial families in the Brazilian town of Santana de Parnaíba lived on the fringe of settlement in a vast and perilous continent. In her revealing community history, Metcalf tells how these settlers pursued family strategies that adapted European custom to the American environment. Turning to recorded events such as marriages, baptisms, and especially inheritances, she discovers that as the newcomers transformed the wilderness into a settled agricultural community, they laid the foundation for a class society of planters, peasants, and slaves. With an engaging description of family life at all three levels of society, the author shows how the families most successful in exploiting and controlling the resources of the wilderness gained wealth, power, and social dominance.

Metcalf challenges accepted views by contending that not only external economic forces but also colonial family strategies paved the way for an inegalitarian society in Brazil. Her portrayal of frontier survival and coping, together with the heedless exploitation of wilderness resources, brings a historical perspective to the consideration of Brazil's last frontier, the Amazon.

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About the Author:

Alida C. Metcalf is Associate Professor of History at Trinity University, Texas.

Review:

"This is an exciting book, indeed a pathbreaking book, for it opens new vistas in the history of colonial Latin America. . . . Metcalf skillfully uses the history of one frontier region to illuminate the history of southern Brazil. . . . She masterfully links her region to the general growth and development of the Portuguese colony thereby demonstrating the strengths which local history, case study, demography, and quantitative techniques can make. This is an outstanding contribution to frontier history, family history, and the social history of rural zones." (Americas)

"Metcalf’s excellent, carefully researched case study of rural life in colonial Portuguese Latin America analyzes the process of family adaptation to a changing agricultural frontier in what is now the prosperous state of Saõ Paulo. . . . The book should interest not only students of Brazilian history but all those concerned with such themes as slavery in the Western hemisphere, the role of women, men, and children in a changing frontier society, and the fate of indigenous populations." (Choice)

". . . meticulously researched, pioneering work . . . The importance of Professor Metcalf’s description and analysis of family and society transcends Santana de Parnaíba in the colonial era, adding more tessera to the mosaic of the economies and societies of Portuguese America and providing an excellent historical framework for an understanding of modern Brazil." (Ethnohistory)

"Historians of Brazil, rejoice! This pathbreaking study of family strategies in rural colonial Brazil is back in print." (The Historian)

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Metcalf, Alida C.
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